chapter  3
Terms of Payment in Retailing: A Tool for Fostering Customer Loyalty or a Form of Managerial Constraint? A Few Observations Based on Accounting from Lorraine in the Eighteenth Century – Julien Villain, translated from the French by Darla Rudy-Gervais
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Credit relations are generally studied from the point of view of social history.2 Very few studies, however, have focused on the role played by credit in merchants’ businesses, or in the management practices it induced. Researchers have o en been stumped by this question, deemed unsolvable or too di cult to treat given the current state of the record, or else they remained content with a few passing remarks aimed at showing the global level of sales on credit.3 is gap complicates our knowledge of how a shop functioned during the early modern period. Whether negotiated or imposed, credit to consumers actually represented a strong constraint on commercial businesses: merchant bankruptcy was o en caused by the passing insolvency of shopkeepers, temporarily unable

to satisfy their creditors’ demands.4 As F. Braudel has pointed out, retail merchants were at the interface of two di erent systems of credit: one, developed among merchants, enforced a rapid rhythm of payment, while consumer credit was characterized by much longer delays.5 Using the collected papers of three retailers from Lorraine from the rst half of the eighteenth century, I propose to study the credit relations of shopkeepers with their creditors and debtors and to re ect on the constraint these relations represented for the merchants, and on the means they used to limit its e ect.